John was born in West Yorkshire, and worked as a cabaret musician before studying English Literature at Cambridge University, followed by a PhD in Language Acquisition at Hull University (UK). He was a university lecturer until 2004, then moved to Spain. He currently lives in the Galician city of A Coruna and works as a translator and journalist.
His first published work, the novella ‘Eating Mammals’, won the Paris Review’s Discovery (Plimpton) Prize in 2002. He went on to publish a collection of novellas, EATING MAMMALS (4th Estate, UK; HarperCollins/William Morrow, US), the historical novel INTOXICATED (HarperCollins/William Morrow, US), and EVERYTHING BUT THE SQUEAL (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US; Summersdale, UK), a food-travelogue about northern Spain. He has also a series of three crime novels. Translations of his work have been published in Russian, Italian, German, Spanish, Galician and Polish.
He has written for the Washington Post, Slate.com, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Penthouse, Departures Magazine, The Big Issue, and was a feature writer for the award-winning food magazine Spain Gourmetour.
He also worked with the conceptual artists Goldin+Senneby as the writer on the ACEPHALE project (2007-15). His writing for this project has been published variously in English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Portuguese, and has featured in numerous art shows and galleries around the world. He was the ghost-writer of the novel HEADLESS, based on the project, which was released in 2016 (Triple Canopy, US; Sternberg, Sweden).